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Employee wellbeing vital to healthy economy

Measuring employee wellbeing is not just good for business but also needed to improve the economy, according to a new report from the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work.

The report, Measuring Wellbeing For Healthy Workers and Organisations, shared that 800,000 people suffered with work-related stress in 2020/21, highlighting the importance of properly tracking employee wellbeing.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) found mental health cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually, equivalent to 5% of the UK's GDP.

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The report outlines reasons why businesses should prioritise measuring wellbeing including the challenges of hybrid working to health; the impact of the pandemic, and Gen Z and millennials placing a greater emphasis on their wellbeing than generations before them.

It suggested that improved worker wellbeing will lead to greater productivity of businesses and therefore improve the economy.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, and co-chair of the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work, said companies' efforts to tackle wellbeing up to now have been superficial.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Companies were doing low hanging fruit stuff; mindfulness at lunch, smoothies, sushi at your desk, beanbags ping pong table, that's not wellbeing. We said this has to be a strategic issue and very important issue.

"We've provided all organisations now with the metrics that would determine whether they are moving on the right path or not, and they now can collect data on this."

The report also said every business should employ a non-executive director responsible for employee health.

The NHS is the only organisation in the UK to do so at the moment. 

It also offered metrics companies could use to track wellbeing, including subjective wellbeing measured by specific questions, discovering the wellbeing drivers for employees, and identifying proxy measures - the indirect outcomes of workplace policies.

Richard Heron, former vice president for health at BP and co-author of the report, said it is in businesses' best interests to care about employee wellbeing.

He said: "The evidence is increasingly clear that when leaders genuinely care about worker wellbeing, business outcomes of interest are better, whether they be long-term stock price, the ability to attract and retain talent or the robustness of safety and governance approaches.

“Successful CEOs and business leaders are intimately familiar with business metrics, profit and loss accounts and financial statements, and as workers we depend on this to keep a job in a going concern."